By Josh Howald
After a lengthy wait for the Carruthers Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs, the playoffs are suddenly here.
The Mitchell Hawks will be in town tonight (Thursday) for Game 1 of the Western Junior C semi-finals.
“Mitchell is a good team, a hard working club,” said Kincardine head coach Jeff Alcombrack. “I expect a good, close series.”
Alcombrack will have to make sure his team is playoff ready, as Mitchell is coming straight out of a six-game set with the Hanover Barons. Mitchell put the sixth place Barons away with a 5-2 win Sunday night, and will be on a high. Kincardine, meanwhile, is coming off a first round bye. The first place Walkerton Hawks declined the bye, instead choosing to sweep the Goderich Sailors.
Walkerton and Mount Forest will play Game 1 of the other semi-final series Friday night in Walkerton. The Pats pulled off the only upset of the opening round, knocking off the third place Wingham Ironmen in six games. Mount Forest sealed that series with a big Game 6 win on the road Sunday night. They will certainly be underdogs against Walkerton.
Kincardine and Mitchell match up fairly well, and this should be an entertaining series. If Kincardine was considered the favourite, then the suspension of captain Brett Catto could be called an equalizer. The team’s offensive and physical leader will miss the first four games of the postseason after being handed a major and match penalty for spearing in Kincardine’s final regular season game against Mount Forest.
“It’s not good,” admitted Alcombrack. “But it’s just something we have to overcome and everyone must step up.”
These teams met six times during the regular season, with Kincardine winning four of those games, including the last two (8-4, 6-3). Both Mitchell wins both game in Mitchell on the small ice surface – which makes Kincardine’s home games crucial.
“It’s a tough barn to play in,” said Alcombrack. “But we control it. We just have to play go-hockey when we’re in that little sandbox. Everybody has to turn it up a notch. We’ll have to play hard, but smart. Stay out of the box and keep our feet moving all the time.”
Mitchell’s top line has led the way offensively. Jerry Ennet, Jade Maxwell and Brent Rae each had eight points in the opening round against the Barons. Ben Nelson was 3-1 between the pipes, while Joe Metzger was in goal for Mitchell’s Game 2 win against Hanover.
Alcombrack confirmed that Gatlin Burt will get the nod in goal tonight for the Bulldogs.
Keep updated at www.independent.on.ca